As I was tearing my 1997 Sub-Zero 601F freezer apart recently to troubleshoot a defrost issue (expect a separate blog post on that soon), I noted that it used four traditional 40W incandescent appliance bulbs as its light source. The 601R refrigerator installed next to it used the same. As you might recall from my previous post on choosing the right LED bulbs, LEDs can output more light (measured in “lumens”) with far less energy consumption, and last decades longer than their incandescent counterparts. Of course, light bulbs in fridges and freezers are only illuminated when the door is open, so they generally last a pretty long time anyway and don’t consume that much extra electricity.
You may, however, have noticed that many modern refrigerators and freezers now use LED lights… and the majority of those use bulbs with an extremely “cold” color temperature (often around 4000K-5000K). I prefer “warm” temps (between 2700K and 3000K) for residential lighting, but I actually like a “cold” colored light in a fridge and freezer… because “cold” is what those appliances are all about!
The existing bulbs in my Sub-Zero appliances were these traditional 2700K 40W incandescent bulbs:
I decided that as long as I was in there, I’d try swapping them out for some “colder” LED bulbs and see how they looked.
I wanted increased brightness (lumens), but many of the extremely bright LED bulbs are wider in circumference than traditional appliance bulbs, so I chose the bright, cold-colored, relatively thin option of GE LED Bright Stiks (yes, that’s how they spell it). They come in a variety of color temps from “Soft White” (2850K, or what I’d call “warm”) to “Daylight” (5000K, or what I’d call “cool”) and brightness ranging from 540 lumens (roughly equivalent to a 40W incandescent) all the way to 1520 lumens (comparable to a 100W incandescent). I opted for the Daylight “60W” equivalent option, which puts out 760 lumens of light at a color temp of 5000K while only consuming 10W of actual electricity. Whenever LED bulbs display wattages such as 40W, 60W, or 100W, that’s only because most of us have been conditioned to know roughly what those wattages mean in terms of brightness with traditional incandescent bulbs. The packages will generally say things like “60W replacement,” while a closer examination actually reveals the true (and always lower) wattage.
I bought this 8-pack — exactly the number of bulbs I’d need to replace all the bulbs in both fridge and freezer:
I installed two of the LED bulbs onone side of the freezer for a side-by-side comparison:
The difference appears dramatic in these photos… but it’s even more dramatic in person. Don’t just look at the bulbs, but also the back wall of the freezer where the light reflects. The LED bulbs are brighter, use 75% less energy, create a more modern look with their “cooler” color temperature, and will likely out-last the freezer!
Another minor benefit is that incandescent bulbs create more heat than LED bulbs, and even though they’re only on for a few moments at a time, the bulb’s heat still gets dissipated inside the fridge or freezer, and the appliance will run a tiny bit longer to counteract that small amount of heat as the bulbs cool off. It’s certainly not major, but over the lifetime of the appliance, it will save a few dollars here and there.
After re-assembling the freezer, installing the other two LED Bright Stiks, and re-installing the glass light diffuser that shields the bulbs, the final effect is a “cleaner,” “cooler,” and updated look that actually provides far more light for seeing things inside the freezer:
I immediately replaced the four incandescent bulbs inside the refrigerator, so that both appliances match. After doing so, I was glad I only went with the 760 lumens option, and not the 1060 lumens or 1520 lumens options… which I imagine would be like staring directly into the Death Star’s beam while standing on the surface of Alderaan.
So if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to update the look of your fridge and/or freezer, while also making it slightly cheaper to operate and far easier to see the stuff inside, consider swapping out your existing incandescent appliance bulbs with some GE LED Bright Stiks. However, before you go around replacing all the bulbs in other appliances throughout your house, keep in mind that oven bulbs are often specifically designed for high-temperature use, and usually have a special coating to prevent glass shards from falling into your food if the bulb shatters or cracks, so do your research first.
As always, I welcome your questions, comments, and feedback below!